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More than a conference – WorkHuman 2017

I know what you’re thinking: Ugh. ANOTHER ‘come to this conference because it’s so freaking great’ post. 

Well…yeah, it kind of is.

But it’s more than that! It’s a confession of sorts.

See, I usually end up going to conferences because either I’m speaking and they asked me to be there by paying my way, or because I know a bunch of cool people who are going to the conference and I really, really want to see them. I seldom go to a conference simply because it looks “interesting.”

WorkHuman was a little different.

I’ve been going to this conference since the very first one (you know…3 years ago). I had seen teasers about it and knew it was going to have some great speakers, including Shawn Achor, Nilofer Merchant, Ariana Huffington, and Adam Grant. I had seen Adam Grant speak in Denver and I just loved his book, so I thought, “Gee, what a cool looking conference. Oh well, no chance to go, I’ll just watch from afar.”

As fate would have it, I had a chance to attend because I knew people. (See? NETWORKING PAYS OFF. Go do it.) I got to see some friends I knew, but more importantly, I got to experience a conference that was unlike any other. The format was unique. The setting was far more intimate than most conferences. And more swanky. (Note to conference planners: you’ll never go wrong with choosing swanky.) And it felt more like a good conversation among friends because it wasn’t frenetic. Rather than piling on the concurrent sessions, WorkHuman had a keynote, then a few breakouts, and then another keynote, and a few more breakouts, etc. What resulted was a shared experience that allowed attendees to discuss the speakers, pay attention to the content, and not worry that they were missing something else in a session down the hall. I loved it.
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I got a chance to go back to the second one and write about it while I was there. This time, the conference was bigger with more sessions (but still swanky. Seriously…go for swank.). The venue was slightly less intimate, but the speakers were again top notch, and while there were more sessions, the conference let you sample several ideas with 15 minute power sessions, collaborative conversation spaces, and fascinating topics. And did I mention Michael J. Fox spoke? No? Well, he did. And it was fantastic.  (I also got called out to meet Globoforce CEO Eric Mosley because of something I tweeted during his session. Smart guy. Super nice. Good chat.)

And I get to go back this year – once again to write about the conference, but even better…I get to speak. YES. I am one of the 15 minute power sessions you can choose to avoid so you can see the other people talk about cool things! I’m incredibly honored and excited to be part of this conference. I love the concept. I love the theme. I love the swanky locales. (Clearly.)

But most importantly, I love the people. And I’m an introvert. So for me to say that after spending 3 days at a conference with so many people, that’s really saying something.

I got to meet some fabulous human beings at WorkHuman. I met John Baldino (who will be a fellow speaker this year) at the pool the day before the conference started. Of course, I had no idea that’s who he was (but the lack of hair probably should have been a clue), so I just talked to him like he was some random friendly guy at the pool. Thankfully, I didn’t say anything too embarrassing (I think), but he has seen me in a swimsuit, so I feel like that makes us family. I saw a bunch of people I don’t get to see nearly enough in real life (Tim Sackett, Kris Dunn, Kristen Harcourt, Robin Schooling, and so many more). I met the mind behind WorkHuman Robot. And because of the conference, I started following many of the speakers on Twitter…and they actually interact with you. Like people! (Amy Cuddy and Adam Grant are especially nice on Twitter. You guys are the best!) So I guess what I’m saying is…even though I went to that first WorkHuman thinking it was just another conference, I walked away with a new appreciation for how a conference that focuses on old topics a new way can really change the way you look at things.

So join us there and say a quick “hi.” Need help convincing your leadership it’s a good idea? Here’s a resource. In fact, since money runs the world, if you register and use the promo code WH17INF-MFA and you’ll save $200 on the registration fee!

WorkHuman helps you CONNECT – to your purpose, to your work, to other people, to new ideas. It’s fun. It’s fresh. It’s a good time.

Hope to see you there!

robot

We love you, WorkHuman Robot.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2017 in culture, Personal Development

 

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Lisa Rosendahl, awesome person: This year’s Tim Sackett Day Honoree!!!

lisaEvery year, the HR blogging community gathers together to honor someone in the profession who is pretty darn cool. This is my third year to participate in such a cool tradition. (Year One and Year Two posts, in case you’re curious.)  In that past, I didn’t really know the people I had a chance to write about. I knew OF those people, and through this tradition, I had an opportunity to get to know them even better.

This is a rare year in that I have actually MET Lisa. In real life. In the lobby of a convention center (because that’s how classy HR people do it).

I met Lisa when I spoke at MNSHRM in 2015 (I think. Seriously, I have no idea what year this is. HELP ME!) Frankly, everyone I met there was a delight. Kate Bischoff gave me a Gopher hat. Josh Rock gave me a “Hi-eeee!” We tried to help Paul DeBettignies find happiness. It was a fun time. Don’t believe me? Check us out. (Yes…I have Beyonce hair in this picture. I’m just that cool. Lisa is the person directly behind me on the right. Avoiding my Beyonce hair. And kindly not laughing AT me.)

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And I also met Lisa at that conference. She is a wonderful person to talk to – smart, funny, wry, empathetic, tough as nails (seriously, when I met her, she was mad that she couldn’t run because she had an injury!). Lisa is a veteran and a mom. She’s also a mentor for so many bloggers out there who are just getting started or want to get better. And she’s one hell of a writer. Lisa is far too humble to believe the impact she has had on the community, so we are happy to toot her horn for her.

If you don’t know Lisa, do yourself a favor and get to know her. If you’re in Minnesota and want to meet an amazing person in real life, you would not be disappointed. I count myself lucky to be connected with her, no matter how tenuously.

So, thank you, Lisa Rosendahl!!! And happy Tim Sackett Day. We are so grateful to know you!

 

To learn more about Lisa, you can find her through any of these links:

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Questions about your culture? Check your travel policy

Okay, it doesn’t necessarily need to be your travel policy, but I think it’s particularly useful for this exercise.

Allow me to explain.

Culture has lots of different definitions. Feel free to Google them if you’re a completist. For me, I look at culture as how work gets done in an organization. That encompasses a lot of stuff, and many tend to think solely of the people component – attitudes, values, behaviors, etc. Those are all part of it, so I’m glad people consider it!  Some also think about culture in terms of reward and recognition, employee perks, stuff like that. Also part of it, so keep that on the list!

The piece that is often missed, though, is process and policy. You know, the nuts and bolts of how you enable (or disable) work to be done within your organization. We forget this part of our culture because it’s in the background. Shit gets done regardless, and we fail to think about the mechanisms that we put in place unless legislation forces us to take a look at it. But it’s having one hell of an impact on your corporate culture whether you realize it or not.

In the FABULOUS book Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnus Nutter, WitchCrowley (“An Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards”) ruminates on some of his greatest accomplishments of demony on Earth. He’s frustrated by the old school demons who think one soul at a time. Crowley puts in place entire systems that ratchet up stress just enough for a person to take it out on another person who would then take it out on another…well, you get the idea. Traffic jams from a poorly designed highway is one example. The resulting negative psychic energy from poorly designed systems poisons the world and primes it for the appearance of the AntiChrist.

Which brings us to the travel policy.paperstack-292x300

If you could design the optimal travel policy, what would it look like? Let’s assume that you have to cap spending and all that fun stuff. Good chance that you might say, “Okay, you can get a flight that works for you and your family – as long as it’s not unnecessarily pricey (e.g., first class all the time). And go ahead and book it on the airline’s web site and use your corporate card so it’s not too complicated. Pick a hotel that comfortable, safe, and near the facility where your visiting. You know, don’t stay at the Ritz, but you don’t need to hit the Motel 6. Oh, and for your food and transportation? Here’s a per diem. You spend that as you see fit.” Doesn’t that sound lovely?

I sort of doubt you’d create one with overly complicated rules about which flights you can book, or require you to use a centralized travel site that doesn’t work 40% of the time, or make arbitrary cutoff points about how long a flight has to be in order to pay for early seating or business class. You wouldn’t set a spend limit on each meal ($10 breakfast, $10 lunch, $20 dinner), or require use of public transportation. You certainly wouldn’t limit the amount of tip someone was allowed to leave for a waitress. And surely you wouldn’t then force your employees to spend hours entering receipts into an overly complicated and antiquated computer system.

Now, if reading the previous paragraph made your blood boil or scoff in disbelief, imagine working under that sort of policy. Because that is a real thing. This policy exists in the world today. (I won’t say where. BUT YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.)

No matter how much you talk about the value of people, or how much you want your culture to be one of trust, or how much you want to be an employer of choice, a policy like the one above undermines all of it. It tells your employees that saving a little money is WAY more important than your employees’ time. Or that you don’t trust them to spend money like it’s their own.

It’s hurting your culture because sometimes, employees want to spend $25 at breakfast and then eat a protein bar for lunch. Or sometimes, they just want to take the 2 hour earlier flight to see their kid after a long trip. Or they want to stay an extra night in the hotel because they want to be able to visit their internal customers without feeling like they have to sneak in a key meeting. They don’t want to feel like their work is overly burdensome.

Before you get all, “But, Mary…” on me, yes, I know you need to have some controls in place – not just to ensure good spending practices, but for risk management compliance. I’m not saying you get rid of everything. Just get rid of the stuff you don’t need. (And you don’t need a lot of it.)

So if you’ve got “culture” in any form on you list of organizational initiatives this year, don’t forget to look at your travel policy. In fact, look at all your policies. And your systems. And your workflows.

You may be surprised at how much impact you can have on that always elusive “culture improvement.”

 

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2017 in culture

 

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2017 and the need for a plan

In general, 2016 kinda sucked.

I mean, there were some good things that happened. Captain America: Civil War was released. As was Rogue One, Deadpool, Star Trek: Beyond (I liked it), Doctor Strange…you know – decent movies. People were married and people were born, which I assume made several folks happy.

But there are a lot of you out there who have expressed your overall disgust with 2016. Too many amazing talents died (David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Gene Wilder, Garry Shandling, Arnold Palmer, John Glenn….it’s a depressingly long list). X-Men Apocalypse was released (good lord, that was awful). Discriminatory laws were passed around the nation, and then we went through that godawful presidential election that has left so many people in fear and despair for the future, or at the very least – not optimistic.

I think this tweet pretty much sums it up:

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So who’s excited for 2017?

I am. But I’m not walking in with my eyes closed. I’m going to be prepared.

Glitchpath shared an approach that I think will work for 2017 – I’m going to do a premortem for my year. But I’m going to keep the scope small. I can’t worry about celebrities and movies (please don’t suck, Episode IIX or Dark Tower), so I’m going to focus on my workplace.

After thinking through that premortem, I’m building a contingency plan for things I think might happen so I’m ready for when they totally do. This isn’t a complete list (that would be a book), but I can bucket some of the areas of potential failure. This helps me think through a game plan to be ready for next year.

Plan A B or C Choice Showing Strategy Change Or Dilemma

  • Potential Failure #1: Employee Issues
    Let’s face it. Employees are great, but they bring on all sorts of variables that will throw your workplace into a tizzy. It could be performance issues, interpersonal issues, illness, turnover, business changes, etc. It’s a lot to plan for.

Contingency plan: Document all processes and cross-train as much as possible. Seriously, have a backup for your backups. Teach your team conflict management techniques (an no, that doesn’t mean “pretend it never happened”). Next, have open career goal discussions with each member of the team – are you happy? do you want to stay? if you stay, what can we help you do better? Be sure to set clear expectations with the team so there are no surprises. Work hard to cultivate a culture of trust and flexibility.

  • Potential Failure #2: Internal Customers
    Bless their hearts. We’re all on the same side, but for some reason, internal customers will occasionally go off the deep end and take you off the rails. They go around you to complain to those above you. Or they spread vague rumors about perceived problems. Issues can include unreasonable expectations, lack of response, not following the process, change in their business needs, budget constraints, etc.

Contingency plan: Build some good relationships. Create a responsive, adaptive, consistent communication cadence for all customers. Know your process and understand what you can and cannot compromise in the name of customer service. Share your process with your customers and outline roles and responsibilities on both sides.

  • Potential Failure #3: Executive Leadership
    You’ll notice that I put this group outside of internal customers. While executive leadership IS usually an internal customer, their real impact is greater because they are making decisions that touch on everything you do – how decisions are made, what can be communicated when, policy decisions, budgeting decisions, etc. There are so many potential pitfalls that I can’t possibly list them. They are legion.

Contingency plan: Find allies on the leadership team and build strong relationships. Leverage these relationships to learn about potential hidden agendas to help you navigate the politics of the situation. Develop an effective dashboard that quickly and easily communicates what’s happening in your team to leadership so you can build credibility and visibility.  KEEP YOUR BOSS IN THE LOOP AT ALL TIMES. (Nobody likes to be blindsided. Nobody.) And worst case scenario – win Powerball.

No, this isn’t an exhaustive list. There will still be crappy times ahead, and I can’t possibly plan for everything that can happen. Hopefully it gives you some idea of how I’m approaching 2017. I’m being proactive and cagey, instead of reactive and quick on my feet. I want to feel in control in 2017, rather than feeling like I survived the year.

So don’t mess with me, 2017. I know what I’m doing.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Always Be Curious (with apologies to Glengarry Glen Ross)

As you probably know, I have a day job. Yes, I actually work in human resources. For a real company and everything!

But I’m also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak at a handful of conferences and other events throughout the year. I enjoy doing this – it’s a great chance for me to visit other states and talk to fellow HR professionals about the struggles they’re facing and to share my experiences in the hopes we all walk away with a fresh perspective and some new ideas to try.

Well, that’s the idea, anyway.

The reality is that not everyone attends a conference with the intent to learn. Some are there just for the recertification credits. Some are there to hang out with their HR friends and hit the expo floor. Some are there to finally get a few days away from the kids so they can watch some RHONJ in peace, dammit! It’s not necessarily what the conference planners intended, but honestly, they’re pretty happy if people pay, show up, give the keynotes some attention, and fill out the feedback forms.

Speakers have a love/hate relationship with feedback forms. We do want to hear from our audience – we want to get better, we want to know what was meaningful to you, we want to hear that we’ve changed your life because you finally understand the new overtime regulations. (Okay, that last one was a bit tongue in cheek.) But seriously…we want some sort of validation that the time we spent building the presentation, practicing, traveling to the conference, and delivering the content was useful for someone. And most comments are very kind. You get the random comment about room temperature (sorry, we can’t control that) or the fact that someone doesn’t like the color of your dress (which is why I usually wear pants), but for the most part, it’s good feedback.

For the most part.abc

Inevitably, no matter what presentation I deliver or at what conference, there is at least ONE person who writes the comment: “I didn’t learn anything new.”

Really? Not a single thing? At all?

Listen, as a speaker, I’m usually a tough audience. Speakers end up seeing a lot of different sessions with different types of presenters, so you can get a little jaded. I admit it. But I walk into every session with the intent of taking away at least ONE thing I’ve learned from that person. Hell, if nothing else, I learned their name and what they do for a living.

But not this person. This person just says, “I didn’t learn anything new.”

This depresses me. Not because I worked hard to do research to include a lot of value-added data (which I always do), or because I shared my experiences in other orgs in hopes it helps (which I also do). It depresses me because a comment like that indicates that this person is not curious. They walk into every situation assuming they know everything and that there is nothing that anyone could possibly teach them.

Who wants to live life like that?

BE CURIOUS. Be open to new ideas and new experiences. Be open to new data. Be open to the fact that your carefully crafted world view might not be 100% accurate.

I’m not asking you to agree with everything you hear. In fact, I want you to question it, challenge it. That shows me you are thinking about it and are curious about how it ties into what you’re currently doing. It shows me you’ve internalized the idea and are considering it and may decide to reject it. At least you cared enough to hate it instead of dismissing it as “nothing new.”

So this is my challenge to you from now until the end of the year. Instead of dismissing something outright, think about it. Question it. Be curious about it. You might actually learn something new.

God forbid.

 

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We’re all difficult to someone

On Monday’s #FailChat (on Twitter every Monday, 11am MT/1pm ET – join us!), we were discussing the challenge of managing difficult people (down, across and up) and examining our failures with it. Laurie Ruettimann made the comment that “When managing difficult people, assume you are also difficult. Helps a lot to be humble.” And she’s absolutely right. And because I have a pathological need to weigh in on everything, I responded with:

We are all difficult to someone. #failchat 

The comment got some likes and a couple of “yeps” and we moved on with the conversation.

I’m still stuck on my comment, because it’s true. No matter how charming we think we are, or how many people blow sunshine up our butts, to someone out there we are an archenemy. We are the Lex Luthor to their Superman. We are the Emperor to their Luke Skywalker. We are the Lucille Bluthe to their Michael. hilarious

It’s really hard to accept that.

After all, we work hard to build relationships. A lot of us try to be kind (or at least, not actively toxic), and we attempt to get through our day productively and with limited drama.

And yet, there are people out there who hate us.

“But,” you might say, “how can you possibly know that? Everyone likes me.”

Here’s the test: If you’ve ever had to say “no” to someone at work, you were being difficult to them.

Maybe not all the time and they probably got over it (we hope), but right then and there – you were difficult. You didn’t let them do something they wanted to do. In fact, you probably had a REALLY good reason to not let them do it. But still – difficult.

Think about it – how did you react the last time someone told you that you couldn’t do something…especially if it was a super cool idea! Did you think ill of that person? Did you accuse them of saying no out of spite. Did you get a teensy bit grumpy? Well, other people are thinking the exact same thing about you.

Don’t take it personally – we’re all difficult people. The best way to deal with it is to remember that the other person is coming from a different perspective. A couple of tips:

  • Find out why they think you’re difficult. Try not to discount the feedback automatically. It could be your approach. It could be they have their own issues. Get data and respond appropriately.
  • Explain your thinking. This can go a long way to changing your perceived difficulty. And on the plus side – if you can’t explain your thinking, there is a good chance that you ARE just being difficult out of spite.
  • Ask the other person why. Don’t dismiss something outright. Maybe their end goal is a really good one, but their proposed approach is bad. By knowing their why, you can help them find a better path.
  • Don’t try so hard to be liked. If the thought of being considered “difficult” distresses you, figure out why. If you’re certain your actions were done with the best outcome in mind, you’re going to be okay. It’s okay not to be everyone’s best friend.

“Difficult” is not a title. It’s not a trophy. It’s an adjective – and a common one, at that. So the next time you’re tempted to call someone difficult, just remember – you are, too.

And it’s all going to be okay.

I never give in to the temptation to be difficult just for the sake of being difficult. That would be too ridiculous.    ~ Jacques Derrida 

 

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

A word about workplace clothing…

As a diehard fan of the now gone What Not To Wear, I fully accept the power of clothing to impact the way a person is perceived, but more importantly…how a person feels.

We’ve all had a moment where we put on a new pair of pants or a kickass blazer and thought, “I will OWN this day. Boom.”

We’ve all had that day where we put something on that we’re not super excited about and then spend the rest of the day fussy about how it fits, how it looks, how it feels.

And for some of us, we have an article of clothing that we absolutely love that’s slightly different from the mainstream – it could be shoes, it could be a button-down shirt, it could be socks, etc. Whatever it is, it is somehow magical and we love it. And we don’t really care if you love it, but we kind of hope you do because how could you not? IT’S AMAZING.blog

Then we run into coworkers who somehow feel like it’s their job to make comments about what you’re wearing. And those coworkers may think they’re being funny…but they’re not. They make you second guess what you look like and now you never feel like wearing that awesome tie again. Because now you’re that “tie guy.”

Look, I get that we all have different tastes. We all grew up with different backgrounds and socioeconomic levels – this impacts the way we dress and what we think looks fabulous. Shouldn’t we be celebrating this instead of judging it?

Here’s a rule of thumb: NEVER comment on something someone is wearing unless it’s to compliment them. Here are some examples of what that might sound like:

“That color looks great on you!”
“I like your tie.”
“I want to steal your shoes, they’re so cute.”
(That last one might just be something I tend to say…)

See? Not once did someone make a joke about the color, print, cut, or otherwise about what someone was wearing.

Do people sometimes show up in the office looking horrific in your eyes? OF COURSE THEY DO. Remember, we all have different tastes – one person’s treasure is another person’s nightmare. I, for one, don’t get shoulder pads. Then again, I have the shoulders of a football player and have never needed them. (The early 90s were a tough time for me.) But I don’t comment on it – why ruin someone’s happiness about how they look?

Unless someone’s dress is unsafe, unallowed, or impacting their ability to be successful – don’t worry about it. Compliment them, or just shut the hell up.

The world won’t end because someone wore white socks with black shoes.

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2016 in Authenticity, Skillz, Teamwork

 

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